Letter to a Stranger

January 11, 2022

I’m always on the lookout for new writing opportunities, and through the various editors who have posted calls online, I’ve discovered lots of new-to-me publications. 

One of these is Off Assignment, and it has a cool feature called “Letter to a Stranger.” That one is exactly as it sounds, a letter written to someone you’ve never met. I have been reading these, and many are very, very good. But in several cases, I could have written at least some version of them myself. One was a letter to a woman who was on the beach with her family, sitting right near the writer. The letter explored the woman’s possible unhappiness in her marriage, because she looked so miserable. Not only have I seen people like that, but the beach happened to be Rehoboth Beach, DE, where we spend our summers! And I am forever speculating about my fellow sun worshippers, from the energetic early morning ocean lap swimmers, to the obnoxious grandparents yelling at their small grandkids to watch out for the big waves (oh, wait, that one is me). Anyway, I doubt they’ll print another letter on the exact same subject. Sigh.

I don’t encounter a ton of strangers in my day-to-day, so it’s pretty slim pickings when it comes to subject matter for a “letter.” But I thought I’d give one a whirl anyway. Here goes!

Letter to the Announcer of the Public Broadcasting Pledge Drive Breaks

Dear Radio Personality,

Thank you for your dedication to this NPR station. I realize that I have not yet become a member, and that by rights I should get only static when I tune into Morning Edition. But you generously let me continue listening, and you just ask (every two months) that I consider joining you, with a pledge of only $20 per month. You tempt me with your offers of coffee mugs and Best of Car Talk CDs, but still I rebuff your advances. What am I waiting for? I will NEVER get a better deal on a Lawrence Welk retrospective, or an umbrella with your station logo! 

As the fund drive continues, you try ramping up the enthusiasm level with talk of matching donations, and per hour fundraising goals, even promising to end the beg-a-thon early if enough moolah comes in. By the final day, I am so fatigued by your cheerleading that I change the station, even resorting to call-in “Sports Talk” radio (“Hey Mike! This is Phil from Camden! I saw the game and they need to fire that quarterback. Unbelievable! He dropped the ball on the 20 yard line! Dropped it! Unbelievable! They need to fire that guy. Don’t you think they need to fire that guy? I couldn’t believe it!”)

One of these days, maybe after I’ve won the lottery, I’ll give in, and help support the thought-provoking programming I’ve come to rely on. But for now, I will remain a public broadcasting moocher, and fritter away my $20/month on groceries instead.

Ashamedly yours,







    I am an author (of four books, numerous plays, poetry and freelance articles,) a director (of Spiritual Formation at a Lutheran church,) and a producer (of five kids).

    I write about my hectic, funny, perfectly imperfect life.

    Please visit my website: or email me at



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